It’s a question frequently encountered by beloved brands: how do you evolve and appeal to the next generation of buyers without losing sight of the qualities that made you great? For Tiffany & Co., which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2012, the answer lies in good design.
“We have a saying: ‘Honor the legacy and enrich the legend,’” says Anthony Robins, group vice president, global real estate & store development for Tiffany & Co. “We have to respect what’s gone before us, but we also have an obligation to contribute. We feel that we have to continue to have contemporary expressions of the brand.”
The company’s new store in SoHo is the latest example of this credo in action. With the help of a deep corporate archive and more than 30 talented artists, the 9,000-square-foot space pays tribute to Tiffany’s Manhattan roots while giving visitors a new perspective into the brand’s place at the intersection of craft and design.
Much of this narrative fusion occurs through the subtle use of trademark motifs. Tiffany Blue awnings outside the store’s Greene Street entrance visually echo the company’s flagship on Fifth Avenue, while walls clad in Amazonite stone carry that signature color inside. A bronze chandelier in the first salon, designed by artist Michele Oka Doner and made of gold-leafed flower buds and entwined stems, brings the brand’s beloved Magonolia tree to life.
Just past the first salon, a lacquer wall featuring Tiffany’s signature wheat leaf pattern (another reference to the Fifth Avenue location) stands opposite a gallery wall hosting 20 unique framed pieces of art and photography, including one from famed collaborator Andy Warhol. In the adjacent oval fine jewelry and engagement room, hundreds of mother-of-pearl magnolias by artist John Opella have been inlaid into the walls. That same pattern, inspired by stained glass designs found at Louis Comfort Tiffany’s home at Madison Avenue and 72nd Street, can be seen on the wall and églomisé doors of the shop’s private salon.
“SoHo was really an opportunity to focus on and express the aspect of Tiffany as America’s house of design,” says Robins. “We really wanted to focus on notions of craftsmanship. The store design itself is meant to be a vibrant expression of the brand—not simply a place where many of our beautiful products are sold, but an expression of the brand itself.”
That expression takes its most contemporary form in the fashion jewelry area, which Robins likens to “a living room.” The space features Louis Comfort Tiffany’s dragonfly motif, custom-built casual seating, cerused hardwood flooring and striking lighting designs inspired by Tiffany’s white ribbon. A backdrop of vintage tools, sketches and models gives customers a deeper appreciation of the end product on display while also showcasing the depth of Tiffany’s legacy.
“It’s meant to feel more like a studio,” Robins notes. “If you go to an artist’s studio, there are pieces there that the artist really liked, there are pieces that are unfinished, there are ideas that have been rejected—it’s intended to have a richness to it.”
Indeed, the SoHo store represents Tiffany as it wants to be viewed in
the new age: friendly and relaxed, but still the undisputed arbiter of taste
and style. It’s a contextualized space that melds the history of the brand with the artistic sensibilities of its neighborhood. For Robins, it is proof that design is key to building an enduring legacy. “When people come into the store,
they know it’s new,” he says, “but they also recognize that it’s part of a bigger and much older story.”